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What is Peach?

 
Peach (peach.cool) is a new social app for iOS. It allows users to post a variety of updates that can only be seen by friends.  There are no public profiles and there is no web interface – everything happens within the app.

Peach offers users a selection of “magic words” which allow them to share information from their device, including a list of the day’s events directly from your calendar, the weather at your current location, or the number of steps you have taken today. Magic words also open up tools such as a sketchpad, a GIF selector, and a ratings tool.  The magic word ‘song’ can even allow Peach to tap into your phone’s microphone and identify the song you’re listening to – then shares this with your friends. A full list of magic words is available here.
 

Positive Features of Peach

 
Peach creates a playful environment for friends to share updates. Some of the benefits include:

  • The privacy settings are very simple (updates can be seen by friends only, or by friends-of-friends)
  • There is no activity feed – just a list of friends. The app allows you to click through to view updates from particular friends, rather than providing a central newsfeed. This uncluttered approach could be popular with those weary of their busy Facebook or Twitter news feeds
  • Peach offers a variety of ‘prompts’ to encourage you to post different types of update
  • Peach offers tools and shortcuts using ‘magic words’

 

Negative Features of Peach

 
Criticisms that have been highlighted by early adopters include:

  • It is difficult to find people – you have to know a friend’s username to add them, and they have to reciprocate.  This could be a deliberate way to help users cultivate smaller, more curated friendship circles.  However, it could mean that Peach fails to grow its user base very quickly
  • There is no direct messaging facility – if you share something, all of your friends can see it.
  • Peach is currently only available for iOS users

 

Using Peach at Events

 
At present, it is difficult to see how one might use Peach at events in a practical way, although attendees may want to connect with each other via Peach if it becomes their online social platform of choice.

The problem with Peach and other walled-garden social networking apps is that they restrict open, amplified conversation, which is one of the key reasons for using social media at an event.  Open, online discussion at an event allows you to network more widely, discover people and contribute to the experience of the event for others within and beyond the venue.  Members of the audience may share opinions, experiences, supplementary links or other information that can enhance your knowledge. Being able to see who has opinions on a particular topic can help you to identify suitable people to seek out over coffee breaks and to start a dialogue with them before you meet.  These benefits are just some of the reasons why Twitter has become such an important part of many events, as it provides the necessary scaffolding for this type of social activity.

At present, Peach may be useful if you wish to have a parallel, private conversation with members of your team that need to be kept confidential, but it will not help you to access information and debate issues beyond your existing circle.  For some events this may be entirely appropriate, whilst for others this could cut you off from the rich online discussion taking place around the event themes elsewhere.

It remains to be seen whether Peach picks up a specific type or demographic of user.  If this does become clear, and this user group is your event’s target audience, Peach may become an effective way to share updates about your event via an event commentary. The features of Peach mean that an event commentary could be more varied and fun than the text/link-based commentary usually offered via Twitter.  Such a commentary should be offered by someone conversant with all the features of Peach who could use them to create an entertaining stream of updates and engage with their audience convincingly.  However, if you wanted to share this commentary more widely, or capture it for future use, then you would need to do a lot of copying and pasting – there appear to be no export functions within Peach and no way to share updates to other platforms automatically via services such as IFTTT (yet!).
 

Privacy and Peach

 
Peach can access and share a lot of information from your device (from battery power readings to information from your phone’s microphone).  It is therefore really important to read the privacy policy and to understand what they can do with that data.

Key sections of the privacy policy include:

Some third party services providers that we engage may also track and report information about how and when you interact with our App and information about your mobile device.

These third party services providers will have access to your PII [Personally Identifying Information] only for the purpose of performing services on our behalf and will be expressly obligated not to disclose or use your PII for any other purpose.

We may share aggregated information and non-identifying information with third parties for industry research and analysis, demographic profiling and other similar purposes.

It is not clear from Peach’s website who those third parties are or might be, or what kind of third parties might be invited to participate at a later date.  Currently there is no advertising within the app, and no clear way for brands to engage with users, so it is difficult to predict if advertisers may be among those third parties.

Assuming you trust a company like Peach with your data behind the scenes, there are some features about Peach’s approach to privacy on the front end that some users might value.  There are no public profiles and your posts are not searchable, which may appeal to certain users.  You can achieve the same result within Facebook and Twitter using the various privacy settings, but Peach is designed to offer this by default.
 

Will Peach Matter?

 
As always with a new platform, there is a lot of speculation about whether Peach will take off at all.  Many reviewers were declaring it dead within days of its launch.  However, I think this an unhealthy attitude within the technology press and could risk stifling innovation if new apps are required to demonstrate ubiquitous uptake on day one.  An interesting post on New Republic by Navneet Alang touches on this whilst reflecting on what Peach can teach us about the current social media landscape more widely.

What is becoming clear from the coverage is that high speed audience uptake is important.  There is also a strong feeling that any new platform should offer something radically different – preferably with more than one key differentiator.  Being ad-free alone was not enough for Ello, so will a few cute messaging features be enough for Peach?

Finally, the privacy issue may be make or break for Peach. There is an interesting post by Dave Carroll unpacking Peach’s privacy policy and highlighting the assessment he made in this tweet. In his post, Carroll observes:

Peach takes the Slack approach to messaging as a platform and the Snapchat approach to erecting a garden walled-off from the Open Web but Peach neglects the Ello approach to innovate on user rights for market advantage.

Getting privacy right not just on the surface but under the hood so that user data does not become a product is a big issue to solve for many channels.  The model Peach has chosen – and the trend it represents – indicates how social app developers are thinking about these issues.
 

Conclusions

 
It is difficult to see how Peach’s offering might be used within an event context at the moment. Whilst there are platforms that allow more public discussion and the capturing of that discussion for future analysis, it is unlikely that Peach will become a significant part of the event social media mix.  However, it will be worth monitoring how it develops, as it may be an appropriate tool for certain event audiences, in certain conditions.

Even if Peach does not gain traction in the already crowded social space, it has highlighted for me the need to look more closely at the rise in walled-garden messaging apps and how these might impact on communication at events.

Image Credit: Rebecca Siegel